Rabbit behavior

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Rabbits are excellent pets because they are friendly, funny, intelligent animals, and of course, they are very tender. Now, understanding the nature of your rabbit, its way of behaving and communicating, is of vital importance in order to provide it with the best care and to improve coexistence with its family..

To this end, in this AnimalWised article we want to help you understand the rabbit behavior, so that every time you observe your tender friend you can know why he behaves in this way and if he is comfortable with you.

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  1. Characteristics of rabbits
  2. How do rabbits communicate?
  3. Social behavior of rabbits
  4. Daily behavior of the rabbit
  5. Abnormal behavior of rabbits - stress or pain
  6. How is the courtship of rabbits?

Characteristics of rabbits

Rabbits are small lagomorphic mammals (not rodents, as we often confuse them). This species is herbivorous and in its natural environment acts as prey, staying active mainly in twilight hours, that is, at dawn and dusk.

In this case, understanding that your furry is a prey is, without a doubt, decisive if we want to understand it, since its behavior is due to the need it has to run away and hide from predators. Because of this, these animals spend much of their time being alert, perceiving their surroundings through their senses, mainly through their developed hearing (which their large ears provide them), as well as having a large field of view that allows them to detect predators that come from the air (birds of prey) and a highly developed sense of smell. This allows them to react quickly to any stimulus that seems threatening or unfamiliar (an attribute known as neophobia), fleeing instantly and hiding in their burrows underground..

However, domestic rabbits are characterized precisely by having lost part of this instinctive behavior, which makes them more confident with us. Even so, part of this fearful character continues to be preserved to a lesser or greater extent depending on factors such as race or how we treat it.

You may also be interested in Rabbit breeds and their characteristics.

How do rabbits communicate?

If you have a rabbit at home, you will surely have been impressed many times by the amount of expressions and forms of communication that it manifests in its day-to-day life. And, although these sweet animals are rather silent, they have a wide range of gestures, postures, as well as sounds..

Rabbit non-verbal language

Body language in rabbits is primarily intended to express how they feel through the movement of different parts of the body, in addition to physiological responses such as breathing or the secretion of odors that other animals with a good sense of smell can perceive (therefore, we cannot perceive it). We distinguish the following expressions:

  • Afraid: When a rabbit is afraid, it tends to throw its ears back hooked to the body, lowers its head and hides its front legs under it, and it is also observed that its eyes are more bulging. His muscle tone is rather stiff, tensing his whole body, and his breathing quickens..
  • AngerWhen a rabbit does not want you to bother him, he will express it properly by hitting the ground with his paws to make you walk away. Also, if you are holding him in your arms and he is not in a very good mood, he may try to bite you.
  • Joy: When a rabbit is happy, it has a rather playful character, jumping, running around the house up and down, keeping its ears pricked and a relaxed body posture (contrary to when it is afraid). He may also approach you because he wants you to be there for him and pamper him.
  • Tranquillity: if you observe your rabbit lying down, on its belly or on its side, with its legs stretched out, it is a clear sign that it is calm and confident. Also, they typically drop their ears and eyelids, as they don't need to stay alert..

Rabbit verbal language

Rabbits are rather silent animals. Still, they can make sounds at specific times to express their mood..

  • Whimpering and gruntingWhen a rabbit feels cornered or uncomfortable, it is common for it to whine to express its mood. In the same way, if you have no chance to flee, it is very possible that you end up biting to defend yourself. Now, usually before the bite, he usually growls as a form of warning.
  • Shriek: Rabbits can scream when they feel very intense fear. This heartbreaking sound is usually emitted when they are being chased by a predator or when they have been hunted, with the intention of communicating the danger to other rabbits.
  • Clucking: This sound is similar to a very slight cackle that they emit when they chew something very appetizing, food or any object that they like to gnaw.
  • Purr: when a rabbit is happy and calm, for example when you caress it, it is common to hear a sound similar to the purr of a cat, which they make by gently brushing their teeth.
  • Whistles: When one rabbit wants to kick another, it usually emits a high-pitched sound similar to a hiss to eject it.
  • Courtship sounds: When a male tries to woo a female, he usually emits very different sounds, such as buzzing and horns, accompanied by his body language. In this way, the rabbit tries to get the female to notice him.

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Social behavior of rabbits

Rabbits are gregarious animals used to living in colonies within their burrows between 2 and 9 individuals, because in this way they feel protected from external threats. These groups usually maintain very marked hierarchies, made up of females with at least one male, because if there is another male a dispute will arise and he will have to adopt either a submissive position or be expelled from the nest.

When these animals live together, they usually create bonds and relate to each other through mutual grooming as a show of affection and group acceptance, as well as they sleep together to keep themselves safe. A domesticated rabbit that lives with people will also manifest this kind of behavior with its owner if he trusts him and even with other animals, such as dogs and cats if they obviously maintain a friendly attitude..

In this other article we explain ¿How to tell if a rabbit is male or female?

Daily behavior of the rabbit

In addition to the behavior aimed at interaction with other individuals, the rabbit also performs many behaviors in order to meet its physical needs, such as:

  • CleanlinessRabbits are very clean animals and, therefore, it is natural that when they are comfortable and relaxed they groom themselves often. In these cases, we will see how they lick and rub with their paws to remove dirt and order their fur. On the contrary, if your rabbit is stressed or sick, it will stop performing this behavior.
  • Stand on two legs: As we have mentioned, rabbits are animals that are constantly alert. For this reason, with the intention of seeing beyond the ground and detecting threats, as well as out of curiosity, they usually stand up on their hind legs to expand their field of vision..
  • Rubbing the chin on objectsRabbits also communicate with each other through smell, as they have this highly developed sense. Also, these animals are very territorial. For this reason, it is common for these animals to mark their territory and the members of their group with their scent, because when rubbing their chin, these animals secrete pheromones with their individual scent thanks to the glands located in the chin.
  • Spraying urine: also a way to leave odorous messages is through urine and feces. In this case, rabbits (especially males) can mark their territory by spraying urine.
  • Eating excrement: Sometimes your rabbit can surprise you by performing this behavior. However, if this behavior is not excessive and if the feces are normal, you should not be alarmed, as it is a natural behavior of the rabbit. This usually performs this behavior in order to make the most of the nutrients from the excrement.
  • Gnaw: rabbits are animals that like to gnaw on all kinds of items, either to eat or to make a nest.
  • Dig: rabbits are animals that usually live in burrows underground thanks to their strong legs. For this reason, it is usual for you to observe your rabbit perform this behavior in order to make a nest.

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Abnormal behavior of rabbits - stress or pain

In the same way that we do, when a rabbit is unwell or in pain, this is clearly reflected in its usual behavior. In these cases, it is best to take the rabbit to a vet so you can diagnose if it has any injury or pathology. Let's see what changes usually occur:

  • Activity reduction: if your rabbit is not well, you will see how it is not so active and remains rather immobile and apathetic.
  • Diet and hydration changes: You may eat and drink less frequently, stopping eating in severe cases, either because you are not feeling well or are having difficulties. If you don't get him to the vet quickly, his health could worsen as he will lose weight quickly and be dehydrated..
  • Lack of hygiene: As we have mentioned, grooming is a behavior that is carried out if it is happy and at ease. On the contrary, if it is not well, it will stop washing and, therefore, it will keep the coat dull and a dirty appearance.
  • Irritable mood- If your rabbit is unwell, he will probably want to stay isolated and will feel annoyed if you try to pick him up and even get close to him.
  • Hyperactivity: It could also be that you are stressed or frustrated if you do not exercise enough and, therefore, perform behaviors such as gnawing excessively, digging nervously ... in order to discharge your energy.
  • Grinding your teeth: when a rabbit grinds its teeth loudly, it usually tries to communicate that it is suffering.
  • Strange sounds: the rabbit may make all kinds of strange vocalizations or other sounds, for example, if it has difficulty breathing.

In this other article we talk about 10 sounds of rabbits.

How is the courtship of rabbits?

Regarding the behavior of rabbits in heat, when a male shows interest in a female, he usually makes the most peculiar sounds to get her to pay attention, as well as start chasing her. In case the rabbit wants to pay attention to it, it usually runs around making small pauses and jumps in the race.

Next, if the female is interested in the male, he usually start your exhibition, which consists of the rabbit strutting walking with its hind legs outstretched, moving away and approaching the female between three or four times in a row.

This forced position is also accompanied by the tail, staying upright, which transmits the smell coming from the glands located in the groin. In addition, it is also common for the male spray your urine on the female, even being far away, making it sometimes respond by running away.

Finally, if the interest is mutual, it is part of the ritual that the licks of the ears and muzzle, as well as the rubbing of the heads and the chin, both as by the male and the female, as a sign of acceptance.

However, if the female is not interested in the male, he usually find yourself frustrated, nervously digging the ground or fighting with other males with whom he has competition.

In this other article, we explain everything about Heat in male and female rabbits.

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